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In our last post, we introduced the cost of poverty and the significant effect inflation has on low-income families. You can view it here if you missed it. We are continuing this series by focusing on groceries and other essential household items.


The families we serve usually either receive federal food assistance benefits like SNAP (formerly called food stamps) or are low-income families who are budgeting a large percentage of their income towards food and household goods. With inflation, the money for food does not stretch as far as it used to.


Furthering the costs, many low-income neighborhoods are located in “food deserts.” The United States Department of Agriculture defines a “food desert” as an “area with limited access to affordable and healthy food.” This usually means that larger stores with lower prices on fresh and healthy food are farther away and require reliable transportation to access. Stores located in food deserts tend to be small convenience stores that carry very little fresh food and charge more for the goods. This has an impact both on families’ wallets and their health.

There are many programs that are aimed at combatting food insecurity in the United States. In addition to SNAP, children of low-income families are eligible for free lunch programs at public schools. These programs can help keep children from going hungry. However, for some homeless families, fully utilizing SNAP benefits can be difficult. SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase restaurant/ fast food meals. This restricts families with limited or no access to a kitchen to fewer meal options.


There are other essential items that families cannot purchase with SNAP benefits. Items like diapers are necessary but very expensive for low-income families. In fact, the other day, a mom in our shelter program needed diapers and purchased 1 pack of 32 diapers at Walmart for about $10. This was totally reasonable, but at the same time boxes of 192 diapers were $9 off at Costco costing $26. Each diaper at Walmart costs $0.31, while each diaper at Costco costs $0.13. This mom would pay a total of about $60 for 192 diapers at Walmart, $34 more than purchasing in bulk at Costco.

Buying in bulk can be difficult for families living paycheck to paycheck. The startup costs of access to bulk stores like Costco limits some of the options that could save money. Additionally, families may not have the space to store bulk purchases. Most apartments have small kitchens with limited cabinet space and one refrigerator with a freezer making bulk item storage difficult or impossible, even if it would save money.


There are large macroeconomic factors impacting our economy. Individually, we don’t have much control over our country’s fiscal policy, industrial production, or employment numbers. Even so, there are ways to help families through these rough economic times! You can donate to our Family Fund, purchase items on our needs list, and volunteer with us! These are small ways you can help be part of the solution that ends homelessness for a family.



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  • T.J. Putman

Ugh, inflation.

At first, it was supply chain constraints and now there might be other issues at play. Either way, the cost of goods and services are skyrocketing and that is especially bad news for our low-income neighbors in the mid-valley. If you’re a family that is living paycheck-to-paycheck or a family with less, continued inflation causes prices to soar even higher. Low-income families are looking for a lifeline to afford their basic needs.

Even though prices are similar for everyone regardless of income, low-income people spend a larger percentage of their money on everyday costs. For example, a family of four bringing in around $5,500 a month might spend $600 on groceries every month. Their groceries are around 11% of their monthly costs. A family of four bringing in $2,000 a month also spending $600 allocates 30% of their monthly income to groceries. This leaves low-income families with less money to spend on the rest of their essentials. No expense can be considered a small expense if you are unable to afford it.

There are large macroeconomic factors impacting our economy. Individually, we don’t have much control over our country’s fiscal policy, industrial production, or employment numbers. Even so, there are ways to help families through these rough economic times! You can donate to our Family Fund, purchase items on our needs list, and volunteer with us! These are small ways you can help be part of the solution that ends homelessness for a family.



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  • T.J. Putman

One apartment, 28 applications. If you’ve had a conversation with me in the last year, you’ve probably heard me mention that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on low-income children and their families. Each day we see this when working with families in one of our housing programs. Many families seeking rental housing in our community have encountered great difficulties in finding homes.

We thought the silver bullet to obtain housing would be our voucher program, formerly called Fresh Start, where families facing homelessness receive a form that guarantees payment of rent for a specific period of time. Despite this, many of these families are still unable to find adequate housing. We are seeing a great deal of negative effects that this is having on families.

One family that has been impacted by this difficult situation is a mother named Melissa, and her five-year-old son, Kaleb. Melissa worked in the restaurant industry, but like many others working in this industry, lost work during the COVID-19 shutdowns. It had taken some time for her unemployment payments to start kicking in, and she ended up losing her home. She was left with no other choice but to couch surf at the homes of close friends and family members, paying them whatever she could afford to go toward rent for allowing her and Kaleb to stay in their homes.


Realizing that she needed a more long-term solution, as her financial situation was not improving; she and Kaleb moved into our shelter program. Within one week of partnering with us, Melissa was able to find a new job. Within two weeks, she received a voucher, which serves as a commitment to pay the security deposit for a home, and at least six months of rent.


However, when searching for a home for her family, she came to realize that there were very few openings that she qualified for. When she was finally able to find an opening, it required an application fee of $55. These types of difficulties persisted, prolonging the temporary homelessness for her family.


Melissa and Kaleb’s story is just one example of the many families who have been impacted in similar ways. As a result, we are now utilizing some industry-leading best practices to help families like Melissa’s get a place of their own to call home. This includes working with families to write letters to prospective landlords, offering incentive$ to landlords who will work with our program, building personal relationships that encourage engagement with Family Promise, and highlighting the long-term case management we provide to support families in our stabilization program.


Finding housing is hard, but we’re hopeful that these strategies will help families have more opportunities to ensure that every child in our community has a safe place to call home.


T.J.

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